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Two Sonoma, one Napa wineries win California Green Medal awards


Three North Coast wine companies are a California Green Medal this year in the third annual Sustainable Winegrowing Leadership Awards, it was announced Thursday.

Set to be recognized later this month for commitments to sustainability are Francis Ford Coppola Winery and St. Francis Winery & Vineyards in Sonoma County, Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery in Napa Valley, and Monterey Pacific Inc. from the Central Coast.

Four Green Medals (greenmedal.org) are presented in the following categories: Leader, Environment, Community and Business. The awards are presented by California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, California Association of Winegrape Growers, Wine Institute, Lodi Winegrape Commission, Napa Valley Vintners, Sonoma County Winegrowers and The Vineyard Team.

"The awards program provides an exciting opportunity for California growers and vintners to be recognized for their hard work and dedication to sustainability," said Allison Jordan, alliance executive director. "All the vineyards and wineries of all sizes from throughout California that submitted applications were outstanding. The judging panel was impressed by the breadth and depth of sustainable practices being used to conserve water and energy, maintain healthy soil, protect air and water quality, preserve wildlife habitat, and enhance relations with employees and communities, all while improving the economic vitality of vineyards and wineries."

LEADER: Francis Ford Coppola Winery

Winning the Leader category this year is Francis Ford Coppola Winery in the Geyserville community of Alexander Valley. The operation is said to be excelling in "all areas" of the "3 E's" of sustainability: environmentally sound, socially equitable and economically viable.

"Last year the winery made a firm commitment to source 100 percent sustainably certified grapes by 2019, while providing technical and financial assistance to growers to help them achieve certification," the awards organization said. "Within the company, employees receive sustainability training opportunities and generate ideas on how the company can take the most sustainable approach to address water and energy usage and waste management among other activities."

To spearhead these efforts, a volunteer Green Team of vineyard and winery employees assembled to implement ideas, identify areas of improvement and seek opportunities to innovate under the guidance of the company's five-year sustainability plan.

ENVIRONMENT: Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery

Spottswoode Estate is the Environment category winner.The St. Helena-based operation is "best demonstrating environmental stewardship through maximized environmental benefits from implementing sustainable practices."

It has been a pioneer in green leadership for over 30 years, transitioning its estate to organic farming in 1985 and earning organic certification in 1992, one of two organic vineyards in Napa Valley at the time, the awards organization said.

Spottswoode also observes Biodynamic practices, almost exclusively uses what's produced by solar power. The company donates 1 percent of annual profits to environmental organizations and is involved in preservation and conservation projects.

COMMUNITY: St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

St. Francis Winery & Vineyards south of Santa Rosa is being recognized in the Community category, which looks at being a good neighbor and employer by innovatively enhancing relations with employees, neighbors and communities.

The winery "operates under the belief that good neighbors help each other and that employees are part of the success of sustainability," the awards group said.

The company was commended for offering a "comprehensive benefits package and annual health and wellness screenings." St. Francis Winery's being named among the Business Journal's "Best Places to Work" for the past six years was noted.

"Local outreach is also part of their good neighbor ethos, by funding an annual day of service for employees to work at local nonprofits," the awards committee said. "Understanding the importance of education, St. Francis shares a strong message of sustainability with the public through informative vineyard tours and offers technical and financial assistance to local grape growers for sustainability certification and education."

BUSINESS: Monterey Pacific

Winning the Business category award is Monterey Pacific. This category honors companies for "best demonstrating smart business through efficiencies, cost savings and innovation from implementing sustainable practices."

Monterey Pacific combines the "most efficient parts of organic, Biodynamic and sustainable farming and creates a successful, economically and environmentally sound management style designed for growing grapes."

That plus benefits such as education help and dual-language programs has resulted in little employee turnover, officials said.

Last year, the company achieved certification of 6,000 acres under the SIP Certified or Certified California Sustainable Winegrowing programs. The organization has committed to having the remaining managed acreage certified this year.

"Understanding that vineyard management involves more than just land, but also people and sound business practices, the company has remained steadfast in its commitment to sustainability since its inception," awards officials said.

Judging the applicants were a panel of wine and sustainability experts, including Stephanie Bolton, grower communications and sustainable winegrowing director, Lodi Winegrape Commission; David Glancy, master sommelier, San Francisco Wine School; Lindsey M. Higgins, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Agribusiness Department at California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo; Allison Jordan; Emily Farrant, sustainability manager, Sonoma County Winegrowers; Michelle Novi, industry relations manager, Napa Valley Vintners; Cyril Penn, editor in chief, Wine Business Monthly; and Beth Vukmanic Lopez, SIP certification manager, The Vineyard Team.

Award sponsors are Wine Business Monthly, CC Wine Caves, Farm Credit Alliance, Marin Clean Energy, Ag Unlimited, SureHarvest and WM EarthCare.

Partnering organizations include El Dorado Wine Grape Growers Association, Fish Friendly Farming, Mendocino County Resource Conservation District, Mendocino WineGrowers Inc., Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, San Luis Obispo Wine Country Association, and Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley.